by George Harris

Recently the grandfather of a young person I know died. While the loss of a grandparent is not as devastating as the loss of a parent, it is a significant, life-altering event. With the passing of grandparents, we lose a connection to a time that existed even before our parents were born. We lose a connection to a history we can only read about in books, a history that lived in the faces and actions of our grandparents.

Grandparents come from the time “before”—and in this particular case, the time was before the Great Depression, World War II, before television, before the Korean War, before the Vietnam War, before cell phones, the internet, computers and such things as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and all of the other social media. Some people didn’t have indoor plumbing or telephones and I am certain that their grandchildren wonder how their grandparents got by without the many “modern conveniences” they have today. They came from a time when gasoline was 29 cents a gallon, and you could buy a good steak at the local butcher shop for 22 cents a pound and everybody’s favorite comfort food, Campbell’s Tomato Soup, was four cans for a quarter. Still around today, but much more expensive, Kellogg’s Cornflakes were three packages for 25 cents. Today, those same cornflakes sell for about $3.79 for a 12-ounce box.

Grandmothers (Granny, Grandma, Nana) were often the ones we turned to for solace, particularly if we were having problems with our parents. In many instance, Grandmothers raised us or were always there as the fill-in babysitter. My maternal grandmother lived just doors away for a good part of my life and she was the one my mother often turned to for a home remedy or a recommendation as to how something should be handled.

Grandfathers (Grandpa, Granddad, Pop-Pop), on the other hand, were often very stoic. But they might be your fishing partner or the one who took you to a ball game. And in many cases, they were an early employer if they hired you to cut their lawn. They might have even have taught you to whittle, or play ball or golf. Maybe.

Then one day you look around and your grandparents are old, really old. Their hair has turned white or, in the case of grandfathers, it may have disappeared altogether. Their faces are suddenly filled with wrinkles and their gait is no longer strong and steady. And they may be a little crankier that you remember from earlier days and their hearing is now electronically aided. And they always seem to be wondering what they did with their glasses. But they are still our grandparents, our connection to the time “before”.

And then, often suddenly, they are taken from us. And our connection to their history is broken. But even this does not mean that they are gone from our memory. They are there and they are in our genes—they are part of us just as we are part of them. And although they are gone from our sight, they are with us and they are loved. On another day, we will be grandparents who are those people from the time “before”. And we will pass on our memories, our genes and our love before we are also gone.

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